National briefs: Obama to bar anti-gay bias

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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will sign an executive order on Monday barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, senior administration officials said.

The order will allow some exemptions for religious groups that are federal contractors but not as much flexibility as the groups had wanted.

A religious organization would be barred from making hiring decisions based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Exceptions would be allowed for ministers, and groups would be allowed to favor individuals of a particular religion when hiring.

Officials told reporters on Friday that Mr. Obama's action would update two previous orders about discrimination already on the books.

EPA to block copper mine

WASHINGTON — U.S. environmental regulators laid out proposed protections for Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed on Friday that would effectively block the development of the Pebble deposit, which could be one of the world's largest copper mines.

In a 214-page document posted to its website, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to restrict the use of certain waters in the region for disposal of dredged or fill material associated with mining the Pebble deposit.

It is the latest step by the EPA to use a rare process under the Clean Water Act to try to stop work on the proposed copper-gold mine, which it says would threaten the region's valuable salmon fisheries.

Project owner Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd, meanwhile, has sued the EPA for trying to derail development before the company has even applied for its permit or environmental assessment.

Okla. gay marriage ban

OKLAHOMA CITY — A federal appeals court ruling Friday that Oklahoma’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional spurred celebration among gay rights activists but sparked sharp anger among Republican leaders in a conservative state that prides itself on being the buckle of the nation’s Bible Belt.

The decision by a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upholding a federal judge’s ruling is the latest in a decade-long legal battle. That fight was launched by two couples — Sharon Baldwin and Mary Bishop, and Gay Phillips and Susan Barton — shortly after 76 percent of Oklahoma voters backed the ban in 2004.

The court put its 2-1 ruling on hold pending an appeal, meaning same-sex couples won’t be allowed to marry in Oklahoma for now.

Man put in chokehold dies

NEW YORK — The New York Police Department has launched an internal investigation into the death of a 43-year-old man whose final moments were captured in a video in which he can be heard gasping “I can’t breathe” over and over again after an officer is seen placing him in a chokehold, officials said.

The man, Eric Garner, died Thursday afternoon as plainclothes officers tried to take him into custody on a Staten Island street on charges of selling cigarettes, according to an account the police have released. A video, posted on the website of The New York Daily News, shows an argument of mounting intensity as Mr. Garner quarrels with a plainclothes officer about whether he would be arrested.

Clinton papers released

WASHINGTON — President Bill Clinton asked advisers for more information on Osama bin Laden in 1998 after flagging a newspaper story, according to records from the Clinton White House that were released Friday. The records also detail consideration of military action in Haiti in 1994.

The National Archives released about 1,000 pages of previously restricted documents from Mr. Clinton’s two terms, part of about 20,000 pages of Clinton records that have been disseminated since February.

The latest batch also covers the Supreme Court nominations of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, the appellate court nomination of future Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, security planning for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and the 2000 presidential campaign of Al Gore, then the vice president.

Unlicensed mortician

BOSTON — Joseph O’Donnell, 55, an unlicensed funeral director accused of stealing more than $12,000 from an elderly couple could face more charges after authorities found 12 bodies and the cremated remains of more than 40 others in two self-storage units he rented, authorities said Friday.

Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley said no foul play is suspected in the deaths.

-- Compiled from wire services


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